Spanish Stories: Worst, Weirdest, Best

Let me preface this entry by admitting that this has been a wacky couple of weeks: a compilation of slapstick and truly sad events. I don’t know how to organize such a weird essay. But I will try my best to make sense of the past two weeks using what I just taught my kids: worst, weirdest, best. Also, here is Nina Simone:





Paris. My favorite city mired in tragedy. I have no words. Just sadness. Not just for Paris, but for all those who have died for someone else’s ruthless and ridiculous cause. All those innocent people who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. I cannot make sense of something so senseless.

Spain. My temporary country on high alert – the highest there is. Funny, they have been on some sort of alert since drones were flown over Notre Dame earlier this year. Since France is next door, Spain feels the malice, too. I was granted a student visit during a time of alert. I do not believe I would have been admitted into the country if this threat of terrorist violence were thought or found to be evident.

I believe I am safe here. But I cannot guarantee that will be the case a few months from now. I cannot imagine Isis messing with Spain, although, what do I know. I just hope that this will stop soon. All the fear and hatred will cease. Because I have nothing but love for my fellow man, except for the man who runs the school supply store (more on that in a minute).

In an attempt to let my loved ones know I am alive, I will continue to be annoying and humble brag on social media!



I live stupidly close to my school. Often, I wake up early to enjoy hot tea, breakfast, and my Facebook feed until I am running late and have to get ready in a hurry. My time management skills are poor at best. It’s true: in each class I “hire” a timekeeper (no salary just a prestigious title) to make sure we are ending on time. I should mention class time range from 25 minutes (big classrooms split into two groups) or one hour (whole class). This is not rocket science, little kids can tell time, more or less.

One such morning I was running to my school, late as per usual, and carrying all my teacher acumen. I was just thinking that I needed to buy new sneakers because my Nikes are almost a year old and are starting to become uncomfortable, when suddenly, I find myself sitting on the bottom step. Funny, I was just upright and running down a short flight of concrete stairs, I shouldn’t be on my ass. The lady who runs the fruit stand runs over to my aide. “Vale? Dolar? Vale?” she repeats in a hurried tone. I just shake my head and reply, “No. Bien.” Alas, I slipped and fell on the wet steps, injuring my left elbow, right palm, and whole bum bone. The fruit lady helps me up and hugs me. Maybe I should buy something from her stand next time. My pants are soaking wet and now, I was really late, I had no time to change them. Actually, that’s not true, the thought didn’t even cross my mind. I just slowly walked to school thanking the fruit lady as I pass by.

My mind was occupied and I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking. Perhaps it’s a bit of painful hubris that keeps me looking out for my next possible slip ‘n’ fall. My fall came out of nowhere. I didn’t cry or shout. I just fell. It hurt but a kind stranger helped me up and I made it through an entire day of teaching and tutoring. Sometimes you’re going to fall and that’s ok. Sometimes it’s hilarious. Sometimes you break a bone. All you can do is try to be more careful next time.

Perhaps we can trace this actual fall to the emotional fallout that occurred earlier in the week. A guy that proved to be anything by decent, something he claimed to be, but is the exact opposite. You’d think I’d be hip to this trick. You’d think after all of the shitty dudes I’ve met, I could stiff out bullshit. That’s how bad I wanted it to be real. That’s how much I want to be apart of a couple. I’ve worked very hard tackling my mental and emotional issues, in the process, I traveled the world, found a brilliant job and amazing opportunity for an actual career. Yet there are no men. It’s not a position that is so foreign to me. I just thought that I was moving in the right direction.

I suppose the fact that I never learn my lesson has become a charming attribute. One where I preach the virtue of learning from mistakes and drudge forward with a positive attitude and/or some such platitude, yet continue to make the same stupid decision the next time the opportunity presents itself. With guys it’s a revolving door of the same bullshit dressed a little differently, but ending, in deafening silence or worse misogynistic name-calling. I do not regret ending things with a guy over substance abuse issues. Those are pretty clear problems, for me anyway, to detect, and I know that I tend to be attracted to addicts. I am on high alert for such a bloke. But the dudes who appear to be “normal” and maybe a little awkward to a nerdy fault reveal themselves to be much worse and push boundaries with the claim that it’s their social awkwardness that prevents them from long-term polite discourse, or worse, no excuse at all.

The weird part of this fallout is that I’m upset. I know that any man who would call me names is not a good guy. For some strange reason I feel that things are improving, even though it seems like shit soup and I have a huge bruise on my bum. My refractory time is shorter. My recovery is nearly instant. I don’t immediately blame myself and ask myself what I did wrong. I didn’t cry or scream; I just picked myself up.

I became my own fruit lady.




Before I fell – actually and figuratively. Before Beirut, Paris, and Lebanon were attacked. The week was pretty normal. I was going though my bi-weekly head cold/sore throat experience. I bought some warmer clothes for the upcoming winter. Everything was fine and dandy. That is, until I had to print out Bingo cards from the school supply store and retrieve them from the worst store clerk I’ve ever encountered in all my years, Miguel.

Let me break it down for you. The school has an account (and a budget) at a nearby store that sells all matter of school supplies: notebooks, paper – of all shapes, sizes, and colors, pens, markers, colored pencils, pens, books, games, candy, and magazines. It’s called a libreria. Anyone can shop in it. It doesn’t belong solely to the school. Its just right next door and stocks items that teachers would need, in addition to making photocopies from an original file or from an email request. Since I have no teacher’s manual or anything to copy from, I generally, find things online and email them to be printed out.

It’s been a rocky road with the school store. Miguel works in the morning when I pickup my requested items. He is very difficult to work with since he refuses to even try to help me in the tiniest way. Actually, he told me not to return until I learn Spanish. At the time, I was using my best Spanish. All I could think of was all the bad words that I know and only use for real buttheads. Although I remain polite and try my hardest to avoid ever needing supplies. I assumed this was the way it goes. That everyone struggles with this lazy asshole since I recall my shitty encounters to my coworkers and no one seems concerned. They are more amused with my trials and tribulations with the mean old store clerk than anything.

I avoided the store for a month. A whole month without bingo or coloring worksheets – just solo Jenn teaching old school style. I thought I was doing a good job covering for my lack of paper activities. That is until a few parents complained that my after-school English class was too easy and not varied enough. Then, the contents of my lesson plan unspooled for my fellow teachers – “you must do more!” they said. I had no choice. I had to use the school store. I had to supplement my teaching with activities of the paper variety or I was going to get in real trouble. I had to suck it up and deal with it.

It’s silly to think that a rude man would be my archenemy yet here I am to face down my enemy and win. By win, I mean, having him print out my bingo cards without me giving him The Bird. The next morning, I charge into the small store lined with books, magazines of all description, and pretty pens to claim my copies. I emailed them the day before, in Spanish, and I was confident that THIS time, it would be different.

Nope. Not even close. He claims that I never sent the email. I assure him I sent it.  Please check again. He proceeds to write down the store’s email address on a piece of paper. No sir. I have the email address. He refuses to help anymore until I resend the email.(This is all in Spanish, by the way!) I grab the paper with the email address written on it and crumple the white sheet in my fist. Right in his smug useless face. And I leave. Like a goddamn boss. I walk out feeling like a champion even though I left empty handed.

Of course, I tell my coworkers about my encounter. As usual, they laugh and agree that Miguel is the worst. But this time, perhaps because I stood up for myself, I earned a trade secret: go to the store in the afternoon between 11:30 and 2:00 when Miguel is gone and a lady named Maria (who speaks English) will be attending the store and is much easier to deal with. I’m not sure why it took almost two months and a handful of awkward run-ins with Miguel to finally get this useful tidbit. Maybe I was deemed worthy somehow by passive-aggressively slaying the store troll.

At 11:30 that same day, I roll into the little shop and pick up my bingo cards. Later on that day, I return and charge paper (color and white), colored pencils, a pencil case, a thick black marker, and two big construction paper sheets. I walk out with my fat bag of loot and feel like a teacher. For the first time, I feel like I am here to do a job and do it with all the goofy flare I can muster. I have done just that. In the ensuing days I’ve have created assignments, with the help of my new supplies, that are both fun and education. But the best part is, they take up most of the class time that I generally scramble to fill.

I am the lady boss of the classroom. A lady boss with a backpack full of fun. Hear me Hokey Pokey!


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